Seasonal Moods Are Not Actually Just About Winter

Seasonal moods: they’re not just about winter.

Harvard neuropsychiatrist John Sharp, author of The Emotional Calendar (2011), has concluded from his research that three different realms can affect “seasonal adjustment disorder.” As outlined by Stephanie Hegarty, BBC, they are as follows:

  1. The physical realm: Light and temperature, for instance, can boost mood-lifting brain chemicals.
  2. Cultural events: Activities we look forward to and enjoy do matter.
  3. Event anniversaries: Both positive and negative ones can provide annual triggers.

Whereas the first two factors often work out for the better once spring comes, not so true for some who are already suffering from depression. Imagine trying to get on board with others’ cheery spring expectations but feeling unable. Partially related to this lack of success, in both the U.S. and the U.K. suicide rates are highest in the months of April and May.

Health writer Therese Borchard lists on her website three factors she’s found that contribute to seasonal moods, specifically springtime depression and anxiety:

  1. The Shoulds: As mentioned above, trying to be happy because you’re supposed to be often has a reverse effect.
  2. Chaaaaaannnnnge: Can trigger panic for those who are highly sensitive. “The change in us is as physical as it is mental. Just as the lack of sunlight may alter brain levels of certain mood-controlling chemicals – such as the hormone melatonin — in January and February, the same moody chemicals and their messengers get confused when the light comes out in the spring. Although the light is preferable to darkness, change still feels bad.”
  3. Allergies: Sufferers seem at higher risk for depression, according to recent research.

Linda Wasmer Andrews, Psychology Today, further explains the link to allergies:

The most likely candidates are cytokines, the chemical messengers of the immune system. Allergy attacks trigger the release of cytokines that promote inflammation. In both humans and animals, high levels of inflammation-promoting cytokines have been linked to something called ‘sickness behavior.’ This pattern of behavior is characterized by increased sleeping, decreased appetite, reduced sex drive, and withdrawal from the environment. In short, it’s an awful lot like depression.

Additionally, when sleep is decreased as a result of allergies, mood can be affected adversely as well.

Another condition noted by Andrews has been dubbed Reverse SAD by some.The warmer and sunnier it is, the worse the mood for those who have this. About one in 10 SAD sufferers may experience this pattern versus the more common winter blues.

States Andrews, “If you’re in that group, there may be some comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only one. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re struggling. For some people, April showers bring not only May flowers, but also a trip to the therapist’s or a prescription for antidepressants.”

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